Monthly Archives: January 2015

A nice day for a hike

We were doing barn chores, and the goats told me very firmly that they wanted to go on a hike.  Well, I had work to do, but the poor things have been pretty cooped up with the drizzly weather.  They told me by lining up at the gate as I hauled wheelbarrows of compost through.  They didn’t sneak through.  They just looked at me hopefully.  “Walk?”  I gave in.  We went for a hike.

Our farm is too hilly for normal pastures, but it does lend itself to hiking a bit.  So I grab some tools to tackle Himalayan blackberries, call the goats, and head out to the other side of the farm.  We go down a big hill, and I stop at the bottom, turn around, and watch the goats come down.  They get so happy, they jump in the air.  While running.  Downhill.  Usually sideways jumps, 4 feet in the air, legs dancing.  Then we hike through the trees, and squeeze through a narrow pass into a wider section.  They squeeze through the pass single-file, then mass up in the wide area and run after me as a pack.  Then they spread out and nibble.

I use pallets to smush the blackberry canes.  I press them down, then climb up to use my weight to break the thicker canes.  Abbey is my partner.  Once I get the pallet stable, she climbs up.  Her weight is a big help.  I put my hand on her shoulder, and she stands still and braces me while I climb to the top edge and hop.  She waits for me to release pressure on her shoulder, and climbs up to the top edge with me.  I’m about 120 lbs., she’s about 120 lbs., she climbs up and we’ve got twice as much weight to break blackberry canes.  She puts her weight at the same edge I do – whichever edge that is.  It’s a strange method, but it works.

Abbey wandered off when I was repositioning the pallet again.  A trio of mini Nubians hopped up to help me out, but they did it all wrong.  Nobody was stabilized enough to brace me!  Abbey’s help was never requested or trained – it just sort of evolved naturally.  I didn’t realize until today how perfectly she melded into the process.  When I started, I didn’t let the goats climb the pallet until I stabilized it.  Abbey thought she was special, so she climbed up there anyway.  And she turned into a help.  When she felt that it was shaky, she braced.  When she stood solid, I used her for balance.  And she held steady for me, sensing that she was supporting me.

Abbey has been a real brat lately, but we make a good team most of the time.  She’s bratty because she’s in heat, I think, but she doesn’t like her buck.

Well, I paused on our hike, and just let the goats be goats out there.  I turned to the other side of the clearing, and Kopi was reaching for high leaves, balanced on Maggie’s back.  Maggie and Kopi don’t have a special bond.  Kopi’s big.  Maggie isn’t.  She ducked out from under, but not before giving Kopi a minute to eat high leaves.  I guess that’s what goats do for their herd – they lend a hoof.  And they give us an honorary space in the herd.

It’s kind of cool how the goats help us sometimes, deliberately.  I grew up with dogs and cats, not goats.  I didn’t expect goats to be – well, anything except a milk source, and a pasture occupier.  To see them finding ways to help us out – that’s cool.  My dog tries to help out.  He cleans up food spills and tells the UPS guy – in NO uncertain terms – to go away.  I expect that.  I was really surprised to find goats being actively helpful.

Black tea as toner

Have you ever put tea bags on your eyes to reduce puffiness?  Tea is an antioxidant and may also have astringent properties.  Black tea is the most common tea, and often used in cheap tea bags (like Pekoe tea, used in Lipton teas).

It is also considered acidic.  Know what else needs to be acidic?  Facial toner.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, either.  Apparently, brewing longer makes it a bit more acidic, but the pH is somewhere around 5, which is close to the acid mantle of the skin – that’s a good thing.

I was surprised to see a suggestion to use tea on the face for rosacea (on a web-doc site).  Green teas are a bit more alkaline, so not good toners, but it’s certainly logical that some of the astringency and antioxidant nutrients might absorb into the skin!

So I’m going to try some cheap tea as a facial toner.  It shouldn’t be brewed too strong, because it can also be used as a fake-tanner in high concentrations!  It shouldn’t be hot – cold or barely warm is the warmest that should ever be used on sensitive skin (and rosacea is the ultimate sensitivity!).  And, of course, it is food – it shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for days.  But at 4 cents per tea bag, it would only cost $1.20 a month to brew a fresh cup every day.  Hate to waste most of a cup of tea?  Dark-haired folks can pour it over their hair for an acidic hair rinse; the used tea bags can be used to perk up puffy eyes (chill them and then rest against closed eyelids for up to 15 minutes); pour tea over your feet (or soak in it) to fight foot odor; or even hold the warm tea bag against a blemish for a bit to reduce acneic symptoms!  (Hat tip to

As a side note, hibiscus tea is apparently even more acidic than black tea, with a pH below 3.  That may be why it’s often recommended as a hair rinse.  Wet hair might be able to tolerate a more acidic rinse because the tea has to dilute all the water in the hair before it can lower the pH; and many people rinse the tea out, anyway.

Don’t you hurt my Ma!

I had to run to the house for something near the end of barn chores.  The family dog begged to come back to the barn with me.  A rare treat for him, but I agreed.

He stayed on the non-goat side of the barn.  The goats stayed on the goat side of the barn.  I went back and forth, gathering hay and delivering it to the goat feeders.

When I stepped to the goat side of the barn, the goats surrounded me, asking for hugs.

When I stepped to the non-goat side, the dog came looking for pets.

When I squatted down to give the goats their good-night hugs, the dog went on alert.  “Don’t you hurt my Mom!”

When i squatted down to give reassuring pets to the dog, the goats went on alert.  “Don’t you hurt our Ma!”

It’s my job to keep my goats and dog safe.  But it’s charming that they want to return the favor.  I hope, every time, that watching the dog hug me like they do, watching him obey (like they don’t!) and watching him be harmless, will assure the goats that this dog is a good one.  They crowd close, and Abbey stands up against the fence, ready to leap over it if I need her.   Hannah reached her head as far as it would stretch, coming as close as she could to gauge the dog’s intention, to smell for any fear emanating from me.

Sigh, I guess the goats will never accept the family dog as a friend.  They’ve either known him for over 2 years, or grown up with him.  He free-ranges with the chickens sometimes, and they’ve had many hours to observe him through the fence.  He’s never so much as chased a single animal.  He has no prey drive in him.  He appreciates wildlife and farm animals like a bird-watcher appreciates birds – something to watch from a distance, just to enjoy the sight.  He learned as a baby that chasing makes them leave.

Only Lisa ignored the dog.  She spends as much of her life as possible with her head buried in alfalfa.